Democracy in Action Running Better Board Elections

Living in a co-op or condo might not seem like an exercise in democracy, but when election time rolls around for your building's board, being a shareholder/owner means being a voter as well. One person's vote might very well mean the difference in whether or not a policy is enacted.

For uninvolved residents, filling out that proxy ballot and mailing it back prior to the vote might seem like a pain, but for those who are interested in the results of an election, their neighbors' disinterest could present them with an opportunity to influence the vote.

Many people have the bulk of their assets tied up in their condo or co-op, and a change for the worse in the community's rules, practices or standards could adversely affect the value of their home. Or the potential change might just seem life shattering, but unless you are the person who finds the fault, you might not understand the perspective. So it is a good thing that elections allow residents of a community to register their views in an official, binding manner.

Election Process Requirements

Every co-op or condo building must appoint a board to work with the building's manager to ensure that the community's finances, physical maintenance and daily operations are attended to. Usually, a condo has a board of managers and a co-op has a board of directors. While sometimes a board is simply a group of willing volunteers, the members of a co-op or condo community usually choose boards of directors via formal election. Co-op shareholders generally have a full number share vote count, whereas condo unit owners vote a percentage. If the election is run properly, it can be a shining example of how a small democracy works—but if it isn't managed properly, the process could become the subject of a lawsuit filed by disgruntled shareholders.

The bylaws of a building usually stipulate that board elections be held annually. "New York state law says that if the annual meeting/election hasn't happened in the past 13 months and the board hasn't scheduled a meeting, 10 percent of the shareholders can petition to force the election to be held within 60 to 90 days after," says Robert Tierman, a partner with Litwin & Tierman, a Manhattan-based law firm representing boards and buildings. "The bylaws usually even say which months the elections should be held."

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7 Comments

  • hi i am learning a lot thank you
  • what if there is no quorum? then what - the board just appoints who ever they want to fill an empty board seat? so far, everything I read falls short of answer...
  • can a candidate solicit a proxy before there is a slate of candidates.
  • Can board members open proxies prior to a vote and examine the votes, and then call those that do not agree with them and suggest or ask them to change their votes?
  • by laws say that annual election shall be held for the purpose of electing directors. Board used mail ballots and permitted write ins. Manager received ballots and reported results at annual meeting. No voting or other activity was conducted at the annual meeting. Were the requirements of the by laws satisfied?
  • In my condiminium in Nassau County, New York, the board has ruled that "New York State Law" requires that all Proxies MUST BE NOTORIZED by a Notary Public. In our last election they threw out all Proxies that are NOT notorized. Nowhere in our Condominium Bylaws does it state about Notorization. The board is now citing New York State Law. Does the Board's decision require an amendment to the Bylaws that is 67% vote?
  • Is it legal if the person who is soliciting proxies (because he is running) give shareholders a proxy form that they pre-dated for the date of the meeting In other words, all the shareholder has to do is sign.